Fact check: Trump’s Fox News town hall peppered with false claims on coronavirus and other topics
Trump was dishonest both about matters pertaining to the coronavirus pandemic and about his usual array of other topics, from trade with China to his rally crowds. Here is a preliminary list — which doesn’t even include all of the inaccuracies:
The President kicked off a slew of false claims Sunday night with one he’s made several times before, aimed at a familiar target: the Obama administration. Trump accused the previous administration of doing “nothing” to address AIDS.
He said, “We will be AIDS-free within 8 years. We started, 10 years. Should’ve started in the previous administration. They did nothing. It started at my administration.”
Facts First: It’s not even close to true that previous administrations did nothing to address HIV/AIDS in the US, experts say and budget data proves.
Obama also introduced a comprehensive national strategy on combating HIV/AIDS. And experts note that the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, helped people with HIV gain health insurance coverage.
Asked about what his administration did early on to respond to coronavirus, Trump praised his decision to impose restrictions on travel from China.
“I closed down the country to China,” Trump said, adding later, “I did the China ban.”
Facts First: It’s not true that Trump “closed down” the country entirely, or that he banned travel from China outright. Only foreign nationals who had been in China within the past 14 days were outright banned from entering the US.
When asked by Fox News’s Martha MacCallum about the approximately 40,000 people who entered the country from China after Trump announced these travel restrictions, Trump said “they were American citizens by the way.” However, citizens were not the only exempted group able to enter the country under the Trump administration’s travel restrictions. The restrictions also exempted permanent residents, some of the close family members of citizens and permanent residents, and some others.
Fauci on coronavirus threat
Trump announced his travel restrictions against China at the end of January. At Sunday’s town hall, Trump claimed that a month later even Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said the coronavirus was “going to pass, not going to be a big deal.”
Facts First: Trump is wrong that Fauci publicly said the virus was “not going to be a big deal” and would “pass.” While it is true that Fauci said in late February that Americans did not need to change their behavior patterns at that time, he also clarified that these conditions could change and coronavirus could develop into a major outbreak.
An apology from Joe Biden?
Touting the restrictions on China, Trump claimed that the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee and former vice president Joe Biden had issued an apology for past criticism on the subject.
“Biden has now written a letter of apology because I did the right thing,” Trump said.
Biden’s campaign says he did not know about the China restrictions at the time of the January 31 speech in which he made these remarks, since Biden’s campaign event in Iowa started shortly after the briefing during which the China restrictions were revealed by Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar.
Given the timing of the Biden remarks, it’s not unreasonable for the Trump campaign to infer that Biden was talking about the travel restrictions. But Biden never took an explicit position on the restrictions until his April declaration of support — and whether or not you accept his campaign’s argument that the “xenophobia” claim was not about the restrictions, he certainly hasn’t apologized.
The timing of the Biden campaign’s statement
Trump continued to suggest that the Biden campaign tried to bury its statement of support for the travel restrictions on China, claiming the campaign released the supposed letter “on a Friday night.”
False and misleading claims about hydroxychloroquine
The Fox News anchors asked Trump about hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malaria drug that Trump spent much of March and April promoting as a potential “game-changer” for Covid-19.
Trade with China
Trump repeated three false claims regarding trade with China. He claimed “we were losing $500 billion a year to China, for years,” and that “China never gave 10 cents to our country” before he took office. Regarding his tariffs on China, Trump said the Chinese “paid for that tax, it wasn’t our people. They paid for that tax, they devalued their currency.”
Facts First: Not only are Americans bearing most of the cost of Trump’s tariffs but the US has also had tariffs on China for more than two centuries, generating an average of $12 billion a year from 2007 to 2016, FactCheck.org reported. There has also never been a $500 billion trade deficit with China. (Trump describes trade deficits as “losing,” though many economists dispute that characterization.)
Hunter Biden and China
In criticizing the previous administration’s dealings with China, Trump took a shot at Hunter Biden, the son of the former vice president.
“President Obama and Joe Biden didn’t do anything. China just had a field day with our country. And then you look at his son, walking out with $1.5 billion — give me a break on that.”
“To date, Hunter has not received any compensation for being on BHR’s board of directors. He has not received any return on his investment; there have been no distributions to BHR shareholders since Hunter obtained his equity interest,” Mesires said in the October 2019 statement.
The US contribution to NATO
Trump claimed that, until he got NATO members to significantly increase their spending, “They weren’t paying. We were paying for 100% of NATO.”
Facts First: The US was not “paying for 100% of NATO” before Trump’s presidency, though its defense spending did represent the majority of total NATO defense spending.